President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has strongly appealed to leaders in the Karamoja sub-region to encourage cattle raiders possessing illegal guns to surrender them voluntarily to the authorities and benefit from the amnesty offered by the government.
“I want to appeal to you to send these messages to those boys, those young people that please bring back the guns voluntarily,” the President stressed.
President Museveni made the appeal yesterday at a meeting with political and religious leaders from the Jie and Dodoth of Karamoja sub-region whom he called to Baralegi State Lodge in Okwang Sub-County Otuke district to chat out ways of finding a lasting solution to cattle raids and killings of innocent people within Karamoja and the neighbouring districts.
The President vowed to end this criminality by directly getting involved and supervising the disarmament operation.
“The starting point is that disarmament is a must and will succeed because there is no way these armed people can defy UPDF. The mistake they make is they think they can do this-do that but now that we are massively mobilizing the army, they will die this I can guarantee you. I am going to take more interest and I will be involved,” Gen Museveni vowed.
On the concern raised by some leaders that the borders are porous hence the need to do simultaneous disarmament exercises with neighbouring countries, President Museveni dismissed that claim pointing out that Uganda has no control over the security of neighbouring countries. He singled out one of the weaknesses of the army not developing security roads along the borders and also within the country adding that he is now going to concentrate on rectifying that weakness.
“You are saying that the borders are porous and the Turkana and those from South Sudan bring in guns, we don’t control Kenya, Somalia, or South Sudan so what we need to do is to ensure that if our people are not involved in the guns, the guns can stay in South Sudan or Kenya, they cannot affect us,” he said.
President Museveni further went ahead to prove his point by citing the wars that are ongoing in neighbouring countries but Ugandans living at the borders with those countries are not bringing in guns because there is no place for them in the country.
“On the West Nile side, there is a civil war going on in South Sudan, the guns are there in Congo, but you don’t hear any gun issue in Kanungu or Kisoro and Kasese -why? Because there are no local constituencies for guns. What I am going to do is to ensure that Ugandan people lose their appetite for guns. I am going to supervise this operation myself so that if a rustler sees a gun even if it is lying down here, he will not touch it,” he said.
The President clarified that it is difficult to tie the security of Uganda with that of neighbouring countries “because you never know how neighbours are handling their issues”.
On the issue of the Turkanas from Kenya crossing into Uganda in search of pasture and water for their animals, President Museveni cautioned them to live peacefully otherwise armed ones should be punished promptly.
The President’s comment was prompted by a report that Turkanas recently raided one of the Kraals in Iik and rustled over 2000 cows and other livestock. The same raiders repeated their evil action on the 5th of May 2023 and stole a big number of animals.
The President stressed that the Turkanas must be taken out of the equation, and they must return all the animals they rustled.
One of the leaders however noted that the criminals are not easy to trace because they live in the wilderness. General Museveni said it will be easy for the army to track them down through surveillance using aircraft or drones whether by day or night.
The President however noted that once the criminals are attacked, they might flee to neighbouring countries, but some may decide to return home. He added that those who return to their villages peacefully and voluntarily surrender their guns will be given amnesty but the one who waits to be forcefully disarmed will be denied amnesty.
On the issue of dialogue between the leaders of Karamoja and their neighbours, President Museveni welcomed the idea and asked the LC 5s and the RDCs to coordinate the meetings pledging to support the move.” I will support you,” he promised.
Commenting on the hunger that has badly hit some areas of Karamoja, the President blamed the whole situation on the rustling of livestock. Kaabong alone before the raid had a population of 180, 000 cattle but after the raids only 3000 heads of cattle remained a number of raiders continue to deplete.
“The drastic loss of livestock is directly linked to the raiding. Is that not so? He asked the leaders. “Yes,” they chorused.
Now people don’t have what to eat. What caused all these raidings? Before the raiding, we were not here, now because of the raiding we are here. What other proof do you need that raiding is really an enemy situation?” he asked.
One of the leaders, Hon. Christine Nakwana, Woman MP Kaabong district rooted for education as one of the key areas that will help stop cattle raids. President Museveni agreed with Hon. Nakwana but observed that it would be for only medium term, what is crucial is peace.
“But even with education, we need peace for schools to open and for teachers to move around. The Turkanas killed my Geologists, so disarmament is a must because they killed my geologists who were looking for wealth for you people.”
On the concern about Tsetse flies, President Museveni told Karamojong Leaders that Baralegi was seriously infested by the flies but on using Decatex drug that was sprayed on the bullocks brought from the government farm in Luweero, Tsetse flies within a short time became history.
President Museveni also used the same occasion to inform the meeting of the history of Baralegi State Lodge saying it was the result of fighting Kony who used the grounds for training his rebels.
“I came to Baralegi because I came to fight Kony from here. Kony was around here so I said if Kony wants to fight let me sort out issues with him here,” the President said. He added that the current challenge of safe clean water will soon be solved by the Ministry of Water for the camp and for the surrounding areas including Okwang Town.
President Museveni and the leaders from Karamoja also discussed various issues pertaining to the development of the sub-region, especially wealth creation. He earlier told them the history of his struggle to convince the people of Ankole to abandon nomadic life in favour of organized modern, commercial cattle keeping and farming, a situation he said the people of Karamoja could mirror very well.
Leaders Present included the Ministers for Karamoja Region, MPs, RDCs LC5 Chairpersons, LC3 Chairpersons and Religious leaders led by the Bishop of North Karamoja Diocese the Rt. Rev. Simon Aisu
Senior Security Officers present were the newly appointed Commander of the 3rd Infantry Division Major Gen. Don Nabasa, Brig. Gen. Keith Katungi of the 5th Infantry Division Achol pii and Brig. Mbusi Lukwago Chief of Operation of UPDF. Senior Police Officers in charge of the region were also present.
Moving a vote of thanks, the MP for Kotido Municipality, Hon. Ismail Lomwar thanked President Museveni for his support to Karamoja sub-region despite all the challenges.